Thursday, June 25, 2015

Packing for a con

Packing for a trip, whether a con or anywhere else is a headache for many people. Unless you are very well organized or a very frequent traveller you have probably forgotten something you needed or found that you haven't used half of what you brought. Never fear, the Internet is here! Yes, I made that rhyme again on purpose, I really like it. Seriously, though, the Internet is a fantastic tool, use it!  

How much to bring:

Unless you are an avid cosplayer (in which case you should know what to bring, you've done it before) you don't need more than a carry on case worth of things. You may also want a backpack or purse to carry during the con.  Remember, you will only be there for three or four days, you do not need your entire wardrobe for those three days. On the other hand, don't bring too few things either, no one wants to smell a three day old t-shirt.

What to plan for:

Look up what the weather will be. Use the Internet, don't guess.  Even if the con is in the middle of summer, check how cold it gets in the evening. If it's in the fall look at the chances of rain and check how warm it will get. For girls: will you be on your period? 

Start small, toiletries:

You need a toothbrush, tooth paste, anti-perspirant, soap, floss. Those are the musts. If you hate antiperspirant because of the chemicals and the fact that it's not that good for you what with all that aluminum and such - tough luck, suck it up. Three days of it won't kill you.  In your normal life it may not be a big deal but in a con setting, with however many thousand other people in very close proximity to you it is the most important thing to smell nice or, more accurately, to not smell at all. Deodorant alone won't do it, you need the heavy stuff. Try to find one with the most neutral smell possible and don't wear perfume or cologne, many people have allergies to them and they are way too pungent for the packed spaces of a con. Remember, no smell is the best smell. 
On the topic of shampoo et al. Depending on where you are staying you may not need to bring any at all. If you are staying with a friend then you can bring some but most likely you will be in a hotel. In that case just use what they provide, it's usually nice and they will always give you more if you need it. Really, though, most people don't need to wash their hair every day. You should rinse it, yes, but shampoo and condition? No.  Either way, you don't need a whole bottle, use what the hotel provides or bring travel sized shampoo. (Ikea had fantastic travel size bottles for $1.99/4 pack)
If you need it, bring a razor but I just do all that right before the con and generally don't bother. The less you need to pack, the happier you will be.  Obviously, if you are a guy then this may vary.
Creams: hotels provide body cream. Use it if you want. I have foot cream with me as well because a nice cooling cream is fantastic after a day on your feet. It will also keep them smelling nice. I also carry travel hand cream with me because my hands get dry and face cream for the same reason.
Girls: supplies, grab what you will need. If you don't need anything then take a few liners just in case, who knows how our bodies will act.

On to the big stuff aka clothing:

Count how many days you will be gone. Bring two more pairs of socks than that. It's a small thing but a fresh pair of socks is fantastic for making you fell refreshed. Extra pairs are also good to have because you never know what may happen and wet feet are evil. Do the same with your undies, a fresh pair will make you feel human again as much as a shower. Girls, you don't need that many bras. We all know that they can be reworn. Bring two. Next are pyjamas, because sleeping in your outside clothes is no fun. 
For outdoor clothes you must decide: are you going casual or will you be dressing up? Either way, no one wants to smell your dirty clothes which means: bring a change of upper garments for every day and one pair of pants or a skirt for every two. Cycle them. If you are wearing jeans you can get away with wearing the same ones every day of the con, they don't need to be washed that often. If it's warm bring a pair of shorts or bring a kilt or skirt if you feel like it. This is a con, if you want to cross dress for fun, do! If it's your thing regularly then do it too, cons tend to be very accepting and welcoming places. Bring a hoodie or a light jacket as well for those chilly evenings.
Shoes: if you are going casual you only really need one pair. Take the most comfortable shoes you own. Take care of your feet and they will take care of you. If you are going to dress up a bit then find that one pair of shoes which goes with as many outfits as possible and bring it. Bring some comfy shoes as well because at some point you will want to change.
Last but not least: accessories!
Make up, hair stuff, etc. if you bring make up to a con then you should know what you need. If you don't usually wear any then don't bring it, the less you bring the more space you have free for buying goodies. Bring hair ties, bring extra hair ties, bring a hair brush! Just don't bring half a suitcase worth of hair products that you won't even use. Same with necklaces, scarves, rings, etc.

And in the end:

Bring an empty duffle bag for all those things that you buy. Bring a small bag for your dirty laundry, put a dryer sheet in it to prevent smells. Bring some carabiners because those are fantastic. You can clip a water bottle onto your bag that way, you can do the same with your pass. You can clip two bags of things together to make them easier to carry! Carabiners really are fantastic. Take a bag to be your day pack during the con. This can be a purse, a small back pack, a messenger bag, that empty duffle bag or whatever you want. It can even be a reusable grocery bag if you so wish. Something medium sized is best so that you can fit things into it but not so big that you hit everyone with it all the time. If you like to take photos then bring a camera but if you only take them rarely, then your phone should be fine. If you need it, bring a laptop but most likely you will be too busy to use it. A tablet may be a better bet. If you care about autographs then don't forget your autograph book but if that's not your thing then just bring a small notepad and pen or pencil. Don't forget charging cables and a battery pack if you have one, a dead phone is no fun at all. Bring medication, headaches and stomach aches are also no fun. Bring your con survival pack for those emergencies and don't forget a water bottle.

There you go. It sounds like a lot but it actually isn't. All of those things will fit into a standard size carry on case or a small hiking backpack, whichever you decide to bring depends on you.

Some things to watch out for:

Knives: different provinces and states have different laws concerning the carrying of knives. Cons may also have their own rules on this. Make sure you look up the rules ahead of time, that's what the Internet is for.
Canada knife law: 
Worldwide knife laws:

Prescription medication: certain types of medication may be illegal or hard to get in different countries. Check what the laws concerning meds with opiates are in the area you are going to. Check what kinds of over the counter medicines are available in case you get a cold. If you are flying and you have a prescription for something DON'T check it in. As long as it is in the original packaging with the prescription label on it you are allowed to take it through security, just go through the assistance line, the agents there are trained with such things in mind. NEVER check in something that you need for survival.

Is there anything you like to bring that I didn't mention?  Is there anything you disagree on?  Tell me about it in the comments below.  As always, have a happy con.

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to Prepare for a Con

So, you're interested in going to a con but don't know what to do? Never fear, the Internet is here! Really, it's your greatest resource. 
  1. Look up the con's website. All the information that you need for the com itself will be here, from registration information to recommendations for hotels and often even restaurants.
  2. Go onto the forums. A lot of questions are answered there and you can also read the feedback from former years.
  3. Learn what the con has in terms of programming and events, aka what can you do there?
  4. Figure out for yourself what you are looking for in a con. This is actually really important because depending on your interests you may not even need to buy a pass, as bad as that sounds. Let me go into this further. Depending on the con there are many things that you can do. Autographs, shopping, cosplay and photography, panels, screening rooms, gaming, board games, LARP, food. If all you want to do at a con is take photos or show off your cosplay then you may very well not need to buy a pass. Most photo shoots take place outside or in vestibules in areas that don't need a pass. This could be the option for you if the con you want to go to sells out. For everything else you will need a badge for sure. Usually badges are sold for single days or for the whole weekend/week/however many days the con runs. If all you want to do is shop then you may want to only purchase a day pass.
  5. Schedule your day. Most cons will post their program schedule a few days in advance. Check it out, print it if you can. Find the floor plan for the venue as well. Go through it and find the events or panels or screenings that you want to see most of all and write them down. Check how close the rooms or venues are to each other and how long it would take to get from one to another. You may end up skipping something because it's too far away. Depending on the con you may need to give yourself time to stand in line, especially for autographs. Remember to leave time for eating and going to the bathroom.
  6. Plan where you will stay. Will you be sleeping at home and commuting or driving in? Will you stay with a friend? Will you splurge on a hotel, either alone or with a group?  If you want to stay at a hotel look around at what is available. Check the discounted prices on the con website. Compare to other hotels around, they may be cheaper than the official ones. See if there are any places a street down. Depending on your budget you may be able to choose comfort over price or you may want to look further out and see if there are any places just a bit of a walk away.
  7. Plan your route with care.  If you are taking transit then look at how often the buses or subways run, check when the first and last ones pass through. If you are driving check for parking spaces. See if you may want to bike in.

If this is your first time going to a con all of this may take an hour, perhaps even more but it is so worth it.  So much of the stress that comes with cons can be alleviated just by being prepared and the best thing is, you can find all this out in one place.  Remember, cons are for having fun and the less you have to figure out during the con, the more fun you will have.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Con Survival Kit

     This is the all important con survival pack which you will want to have with you at all times. Now remember, this isn't a cosplay survival pack, or a list of everything that you will want to bring with you, think of this as your con first aid kit, it's going to look like it.

  1. A small box or pouch to keep everything in. 
  2. Band aids!!! Can not stress this enough. Bring many because even if you don't need them, someone will and sharing supplies is a great way to make new friends.
  3. Wet wipes. Travel sized ones, keep two on you at all times, just in case.
  4. Safety pin.
  5. Pain meds. Doesn't matter what kind you like, just make sure you have those that help with headaches and stomach aches. If you need prescription medication be sure to have that as well but don't forget something simple like ibuprofen or aspirin and a pepto bismol, a pain free con is a happy con.
  6. Napkins or tissues. Have two or three just in case.
  7. Throat lozenge. 
  8. Alcohol wipes if you have them.
  9. Tampon.
  10. Panty liner or pad.
  11. Hair or rubber elastic.
That is it. That there is your small kit to carry around with you all day during the active bits of the con. Remember, this isn't all that you bring, you should have back up and replacement supplies either in your car or in your hotel room, or at home if you commute. This is your survival kit, for those little emergencies.

Here is everything that I carry in my kit:

As you can see, it doesn't look like much, but then again, with good planning you don't need much. And now, a few notes for people with different preferences:

Pain meds. These all depend on how much you care about chemicals, allergies, money, availability. If you really don't want to put random chemicals into your body research what the alternatives are, don't stint on this bit because going through a con with a migraine is impossible. If you can get something in pill form - do, it will make your life so much easier. All you need is a pill or two, remember this is a just in case pack. if you are worried about costs look into a store-brand pill. Look up the active ingredient in your favourite medication and get that. Don't overstock, you don't need pills flying everywhere when all you want is a band aid. Put two or three pills into a small ziplock bag, that way they don't get dirty or fall out.

Throat lozenges. Bring one, trust me. Talking all day will make your throat hurt, a halls or fisherman's friend will help you feel good. Also, those cold panel and screening rooms are packed with people who may be sick and are also often freezing. One lozenge (preferably single packed) will be enough to get you through an evening till you get to a hot cup of tea.

Tampons and liners. If you are a girl, this makes sense. If you are a boy you can skip this one. On the other hand, liners can also soak up sweat so if you have heavy cosplay you may want to have something just in case.

Napkins. Go to McDonalds grab two, fold them up and put them in your pack. If you have travel ones you can use those but they tend to be thick and take up more space.